Covid-19: Italy imposes Easter lockdown as Rome and Milan shut schools

Half of Italy becomes a 'red zone' from 15 March, just over a year after the country's first national covid-19 lockdown.

The Italian government of Mario Draghi has declared that the highest level covid-19 restrictions will apply throughout Italy from 3-5 April, effectively placing the country under a national lockdown over the Easter holiday weekend.

From 15 March until 5 April 'red zone' restrictions will apply in Campania, Emilia Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lazio (Rome), Lombardia (Milan), Marche, Molise, Piemonte, Puglia, Veneto and the autonomous province of Trento.

The rest of Italy's regions will be classified as medium-risk orange zones, with the exception of Sardinia which remains in the lowest-risk white zone category. From 15 March there will be no regions in the lower-risk yellow zones.

Under the latest restrictions, in place until 5 April, regions with more than 250 weekly cases per 100,000 inhabitants will automatically be classified as red zones.

'New wave' of covid-19 contagion in Italy

The tightening of measures comes amid a sharp rise in new cases, fuelled by highly contagious virus variants, and increasing pressure on intensive care units in more than half of Italy's regions.

"Unfortunately, one year after the start of the emergency, there is a new wave of contagion"- said Draghi on Friday - "The memory of what happened last spring is vivid, and we will do everything to prevent it from happening again."

The zona rossa restrictions will see the closure of non-essential shops, hairdressers, restaurants and museums. All schools are closed (including kindergartens) with distance learning applying from elementary school onwards.

People are restricted from leaving their homes unless for urgent or necessary reasons such as work or health, with the obligation to carry a "self-declaration" form (download here) stating your motive for being out.

Food shops and pharmacies will remain open as normal.

Easter lockdown in Italy

For the duration of the Easter lockdown meanwhile, the government has relaxed the usual red zone rules slightly, allowing people to move within their region - once a day - to visit the home of friends or relations between 05.00 and 22.00.

A maximum of two people are permitted to enter another person's house, however the limit does not apply to children under 14 or those who are dependent.

People who wish to attend Mass over Easter are invited to go to the church nearest their house.

The nightly curfew of 22.00 until 05.00 remains in place nationwide.

Covid-19 vaccination plan

A new national vaccination plan has been announced by Italy's covid-19 emergency commissioner, army general Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, in a bid to accelerate a campaign dogged by delays and shortfalls in vaccines.

The goal is to reach half a million doses per day on a national basis, tripling the average daily number of vaccinations in recent weeks, and vaccinating at least 80 per cent of the population by September, reports Italian news agency ANSA.

On Friday Italy approved the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine, becoming the fourth to be licensed by the national medicines agency (AIFA) after Pfizer-BionTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

For official information relating to the covid-19 situation in Italy see health ministry website. Photo Wanted in Rome.